This has been such an odd autumn; it seems to have been divided into two halves, the crisp bright extra summer of September and then the relentless rain of autumn for this month. I remember arriving at university for the first time in October and the campus was glowing with autumn sunshine that year. The roundabout in front of the hall of residence had a glorious clump of frail but bold autumn crocus …at least twice the size of their spring cousins. How much gloomier it is to make a new start in the drab rain of this autumn, if the crocus are still there they will plastered to the mud and eaten by slugs or woodlice. This morning however the rain is absent and the sun is making the leaves reflect their subtle changes against a fresh blue sky.
It’s time to plant some bulbs, I have white hyacinth to bed out and white alliums together with dwarf iris, species tulips and some extra Tulipa New Design. Both bulb orders came with free offers so I have in addition some daffodils and extra iris. For my birthday I asked for Sempervivens and a pot to put them in …I got the pot and as luck would have it Lidl were selling six packs of Sempervivens for £5. I will probably under plant with dwarf iris as the leaves will not make a squidgy mess when the flowers are finished.
I have been to London to attend the private view of the Society for Graphic Fine Art Open. It has been very interesting, it could be a society to try and join in order to exhibit on a regular basis. However there are the economics to consider…my current pictures are quite small and therefore must have a smaller price tag but membership and the hanging fees are flat rate (up to a certain point) so doing only smaller works is therefore not as cost efficient as larger works could be, on the other hand reasonably priced smaller works must sell better on average as more people will consider them affordable. It would be good to make my hobby pay some of its own costs. I loved an etching of a prawn in the exhibition- wonderful lines and sugar lift which has an effect I really love. Naturally the only plate I used it on was one which I never did get to come right!
Stags horn fern and stag beetles come to mind looking at these- drawn approx. life size on cartridge with ink, pencil and coloured crayons.
Some time back I found an odd cluster of hazelnuts which were more baroque than the normal variant. This year I found the tree that they come from and have identified it as Turkish hazel, I wondered then if it might be drawn in ink and here are some bits from my sketch book (above). Previous sketch: http://lemonaday.com/2011/11/11/hazelnut-cluster/ #232
7″ x 9″ approx
This sketch was done during a coffee break in a tiny coffee shop on the street where they hold a small market in Newport Pembrokeshire. It is a beautiful place and many thanks to friend and friend of friend who made it possible for me to visit. Thanks too for the patience of the other coffee drinkers and Ted too of course. There were lots of lovely things to be had in Newport….Cawl a lovely rich homemade soup served with bread and cheese in the pub and the pollack mackerel, crab and lobster caught and swopped by other people in the house.
size 7″ x 9 “
After noticing that I did not like the position of the aspen leaf in the previous sketch I sat on the banks of the Seine on the next day and sketched this aspen leaf so that, should I rework the landscape picture, I have a reference for the leaf. People in the house in Pembrokeshire liked the leaf as is.
size 7″ x 9″ approx
There is an odd way in which it is sometimes easier to do the best things on holiday……I think on the whole it is the lack of computer and kitchen + garden + children distractions that help.
We went to Normandy and then I went alone to Newport Pembrokeshire.
In Normandy we went to two gardens Giverny and Chateau Canon about three hours drive apart but so different. Giverny is stuffed with flowers and visitors and I do mean stuffed. There are crowds of five or six drifting across the Japanese bridge all the time. The only quiet places are those not photogenic enough to attract the groups taking photographs of each other with a Monet painting backdrop in the style of a wedding photographer. “Could we have the couple, in four poses, best friends can join them now, can we have the friends on their own now, one with the tour leader perhaps?
Best quote of the day in an American east Coast accent” I don’t know what language you are gabbling at me in, but I am not listening to any of it!”
Talking to one of the gardeners I discovered that they operate on multiple plantings: they empty the beds in November and plant up with tulips and spring stuff all quite short then in early summer they replant and later they supplement with a rich mixture of Dahlias, Tithonias, Hibiscus and so on; the grassy bits are full of Colchicums variety Waterlily featured of course! There were lush salvias of the Mexican sort and the brightest Solanum I had ever seen. *
It was far too hot and crowded to paint there, I did try but it was hopeless. However at Chateau Canon the atmosphere was calm and tranquil and the garden has progressed since we last visited, then things looked precarious after the Boxing Day storm had brought trees crashing through the walls. It is a garden made during the transition from French formality to English romanticism, the best part is a Chartreuse- a series of interlinked walled gardens which were built to grow fruit. There is still much to restore but it is beautiful. I have never seen such gorgeous rainbow trout 18 inches long in perfect clear water.
The picture is of the view along a decorative canal towards a rope bridge, they have a children’s farm and mini parc-cours along with tree houses you can stay the night in- the higher up they are the more they cost to hire! This last part is all new to us and very popular but as it is away from the gardens it does not affect them.
I should never have added the pretty yellow aspen leaf it does not compose.
* added later: Solanum wendlandii from Costa Rica I think, its showy in a good way.
I have put a bit more detail and boosted some of the colour. mostly it has been about filling in the background.
There are so many things in this border…Crocosmia, Sedum, Alchimilla, Stipa, Rudbeckia or Echinacia
This is partly worked up I will need to consider one or two bits and tweak them. There is a certain amount of what some people call knitting that needs doing. That loosely means bits where there is something that needs filling in or covering and its fairly routine but needs to be done in a routine manner without spoiling the good bits of the initial sketch.
I did get to Great Dixter yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. They are all so lovely there; I didn’t recognise a Salvia and they went and found out what it was and whether they had it in the shop. We had a long and interesting chat to one of the stewards and when I saw another plant I did not recognise at all the head gardener went to see if he could dig some up for me from the greenhouse floor, sadly it had been pushed out by the hardy begonia! I did a sketch there in charcoal which I have added watercolour to today and also done a piece based on a begonia leaf which I washed over with textured watercolour. It is more of an illustration piece than a sketch or a painting but it’s fun.
It will be worked on in the studio to give a before and after. Easier to say this as No1 son has gone to see his grandparents for a few days, No2 is quietly teaching himself some computer code and someone else is cooking supper! Its turning out a better day than I thought.
I have harvested the pears from the early tree and have started to pick both the Katy apples and the Owen Thomas. There is a Worcesterish flavour apple at the community orchard ripe too.
Butterflies seem to be especially abundant this year and I have seen a Brimstone recently which is unusual, even rarer is the Fritillary has been flying strongly in the garden, we have dozens of Gatekeepers or are they Meadow browns? and a few Speckled Wood. A while back we were seeing Red Admirals and before that in June some tortoiseshells. Of course when I say abundant I do not mean in the sorts of numbers there were in London when I was a kid but relative to what I have seen here in Sussex in recent years. The most popular flower in the garden at the moment is the oregano which is covered in a busy haze of bees and bee imposters as well as the little brown and orange butterflies. An enormous Southern Hawker dragonfly was sitting on the spirea too one day.
The hot border was at an NGS garden called the Hundred House near Framfield in Sussex. I am currently planning a day trip to Great Dixter to keep DIY dad away from his multiple projects for a day. The garden here has had a big change imposed on it- the tatty summer house has been taken down and a new roof is to be made for it…..and a proper base. Anyone thinking of spending good money on a shed should pay attention here , the base is as important as the shed itself and needs to keep the shed itself up and out of the mud which will lead to rot as night follows day. Any earth which is nearby at a higher level will slump towards your shed, any tree which has leaves to drop nearby will pile its leaves on the damp earth and wick moisture up to the thin wooden walls. Animals will move in underneath if they can and make a den or nest, solitary bees will find crevices in the walls or doors to make nests. All this has to be considered when placing a shed. Then there is the maintenance…..the roof, it follows, must always keep out the rain. Our best shed/summer house is in amazing if not perfect condition …it appears in a photo of my former neighbours taken in about 1960. It must be made from red cedar as I do not believe any other wood could last so long.